By Jacob Solis
Between 2011 and 2013, the number of liquor violations on the University of Nevada, Reno, campus more than doubled. In August of this year alone, 52 citations or arrests were handed out for minors in possession/consumption of alcohol while seven have been given out since the start of September.
At the same time, the population of undergraduate students exploded as record numbers of freshmen entered some of the largest student populations the university has ever seen.
For Associated Students of the University of Nevada Sen. Anthony Ramirez, the statistics reflect a broken drinking culture at UNR.
“I think the culture isn’t at the same level here as it is at [the University of California] Davis,” Ramirez said. “The drinking is acceptable and they understand that it’s going to happen, where here, it’s not really talked about.”
To address the rise in alcohol-related incidents, Ramirez and his fellow senator from the College of Engineering Alex Crupi are in the process of authoring a bill that would increase the amount of education material available to students. The bill would establish a partnership with Student Conduct and Residential Life, Housing and Food Services in order to provide said materials.
Ramirez was inspired to write the bill after visiting several other schools that had what he described as a much more welcoming drinking culture.
“There are just some schools that do a better job of educating their students,” Ramirez said. “When all the senators took a trip down to Davis, just all around they have a simple bookmark that says, ‘If you drink this much in this amount of time, this is how drunk you’ll be.’”
Last year, Ramirez was at the head of an ASUN effort to create a “tipsy-taxi” service to ensure that inebriated students could make it home safely and responsibly, much like the kind that exists at schools such as UC Davis.
Though the bill did eventually make it through committee, it was stalled after university officials expressed concern over liability issues.
“If the school were to do something like tipsy-taxi, it would just be a liability,” Ramirez said. “Let’s say the driver gets in an accident, the passenger can always sue the person driving and the university would get caught up in some sort of way. That’s how [Vice President for Student Services] Shannon Ellis told me how the program wasn’t such a good idea.”
Ultimately, ASUN was forced to abandon the tipsy-taxi proposal. ASUN’s Campus Escort, which is the only service of its kind on campus, does not give rides to drunk students for the same kind of liability reasons.
Efforts to provide transportation to drunk students have been picked up by a local nonprofit, but alcohol education on campus remains inadequate, according to Ramirez.
Currently, the Office for Student Conduct utilizes orientation to educate incoming freshmen on drinking responsibly. During orientation, representatives from UNR Police Services speak to freshmen and their parents in a short seminar.
Other than that, a pamphlet on drinking, which can be found on the Police Services website, succinctly summarizes their no-nonsense stance on underage drinking.
In short bullet points, students can learn that they will earn a criminal record with an MIPC arrest and that they can be sentenced to up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines. While most MIPC citations don’t end in jail time, based on the fact that simple MIPC citations outnumber MIPC arrests by 13-to-1, Police Services minces no words in its educational material.
To supplement all this, Ramirez and Crupi are planning to implement a system similar to that at UC Davis, where more general alcohol information — not just that information on the consequences — would be readily available to students.
“Maybe working with Student Conduct, [we] could have those [bookmarks] around campus,” Ramirez said. “Maybe we could have them in the residence halls or something like that. Anything would be a lot better than not having any of that.”
Jacob Solis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.